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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Crisis in higher education
Universities are in the news more for politics than for research, says Harsh V. Pant
T
he Government of India is proposing to set up a
dozen new “world-class universities,” in addition to
16 new Central universities, in an effort to expand
quality higher education in India. The blueprint has
been formulated by the
University Grants
Commission and the
Union Cabinet has
approved the decision
to bring an ordinance
regarding this in view
of the fact that the
Central Universities
Bill 2008 was pending
in the Lok Sabha.
                      Illustration: Kuldeep Dhiman








EARLIER STORIES

Ekla Chalo
January 31, 2009
Kashmir is bilateral
January 30, 2009
Outrage in Mangalore
January 29, 2009
Have autonomy talks
January 28, 2009
Pin Pakistan down
January 26, 2009
Civil services: The blunted edge
January 25, 2009
Credibility, the best asset
January 24, 2009
Obama on Pakistan
January 23, 2009
Words to remember
January 22, 2009
Metro is not for Maytas
January 21, 2009
President Obama
January 20, 2009


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS


J and K needs an RTI law
by Muzaffar Bhat
T
ransparency International’s annual survey has ranked Jammu & Kashmir as the most corrupt state in India.  To residents of the state, this dubious honor is unsurprising. Jammu and Kashmir has had a long history of official corruption and mismanagement that has brought misery to citizens and has discouraged investment and economic growth, resulting in unemployment and poverty while the rest of India continues to grow and shine.

OPED

Funds for parties
Political reform is a long-drawn process
by Jagdeep S. Chhokar
T
here has been a lot of talk of political reform after the tragic events of November 25-28, 2008, in Mumbai. However what most of us do not seem to realise and appreciate is that political reform is not a knee-jerk reaction but a long-drawn process. One such attempt met with a setback on November 14, 2008, and has not got the notice it deserved.

On Record
‘BJP to widen its network’
by Syed Ali Ahmed
O.P. KohliT
he Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has devised a fresh strategy to go to the grassroots to secure a victory this time in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and undo the damage to its morale and mood caused by the defeat in the recent Delhi assembly elections. The president of the Delhi BJP, O.P. Kohli a veteran RSS activist, does not think undoing the damage to the BJP’s image and morale in the assembly elections is such an uphill task , provided the parliamentary elections were contested with a sound and effective strategy.                      O.P. Kohli

Profile
‘Save trees’ his life’s mission
by Harihar Swarup
S
ome call him “Earth Hero”, while others address him as
“ Green Warrior”. Indeed, both the descriptions fit Sunderlal
Bahuguna, aptly chosen for decoration with Padma Vibhushan,
the country’s second highest award. Eightytwo-year-old
Bahuguna spent his whole life working for the people and the
environment, specially in the Himalayas region. He lives on the
bank of holy Bhagirathi and the motto of his life remains
protection of trees, wetlands, rivers, birds and animals.

 


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A Tribune Special
Crisis in higher education
Universities are in the news more for politics than for research, says Harsh V. Pant

The Government of India is proposing to set up a dozen new “world-class universities,” in addition to 16 new Central universities, in an effort to expand quality higher education in India. The blueprint has been formulated by the University Grants Commission and the Union Cabinet has approved the decision to bring an ordinance regarding this in view of the fact that the Central Universities Bill 2008 was pending in the Lok Sabha.

These “world class universities” will be characterised by among others an all-India common entrance examination, a respectable student-count, the best of faculty with incentives over and above regular pay, a curriculum revised every three years, a semester system, private sector funding, vice-chancellors with at least decade-long teaching experience, collaboration with universities and institutes in India and abroad, and academic creativity shorn of bureaucratic red-tape.

India is increasingly being viewed as an emerging global power, a power that will shape the global balance of power in the 21st century. There are enormous obstacles, however, that India will have to overcome to sustain its present trajectory of economic growth.

A major obstacle is the crisis in India’s higher education system, something that goes unnoticed amid the glare of the engineers, doctors and managers that seems to be emerging from India’s premier professional institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management.

Inaugurating a national conference of Vice-Chancellors some time back, India’s Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh had described higher education in India as a sick child and asked that it should be given a new direction to be able to serve the cause of the nation’s youth better.

Seeking a road map on higher education from the Vice-Chancellors, he asked them to define “what should be the content, extent, methodology and basic ingredients of higher education.” While Mr Arjun Singh’s comments were largely welcomed, especially as they were able to generate a debate in the country on the future of higher education, it was indeed surprising that it took him more than three years to address what should have been his top priority when he assumed office in 2004.

Education has been placed at the centre of the nation’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan, described as India’s “education plan.” The outlay for education is being increased from 7.7 per cent of the total gross budgetary allocations in the Tenth Plan to more than 19 per cent in the Eleventh Plan with an unprecedented five-fold increase in education spending in nominal terms.

Again, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly emphasised the need for reforms in the universities and called for a “new revolution in modern education” with an emphasis on “a quantum jump in science education and research.”

The National Knowledge Commission, a high-level advisory body established by the Prime Minister to recommend changes in the higher education system “with the objective of transforming India into a knowledge society,” has also underlined the need that India’s higher education system needs a systematic overhaul.

Knowledge is the key variable that will define the global distribution of power in the 21st century and India has also embarked on a path of economic success relying on its high-tech industries. But given the fragile state of the country’s higher education system, it is not clear if India will be able to sustain its present growth trajectory.

While India’s nearest competitor, China is re-orienting and investing in its higher education sector to meet the challenges of the future, India continues to ignore the problem as if the absence of world-class research in Indian universities is something that will rectify itself on its own.

While India may be producing well-trained engineers and managers from its flagship Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management, it is not doing so in sufficient numbers. There is also a growing concern that while private engineering and management institutions are flourishing due to their rising demand, their products are not of the quality that can help India compete effectively in the global marketplace.

India has the third largest higher education system in the world, behind only the United States and China, that is churning out around 2.5 million graduates every year. Not only is this just about 10 per cent of India’s youth but the quality of this output is also below par.

If we leave aside the IITs, the IIMs, and some other institutions such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, we will find a higher education sector that is increasingly unwilling and unable to bear the weight of the rising expectations of an emerging India.

The Indian universities, which should have been the centre of cutting edge research and hub of intellectual activity, are more in the news for political machinations than for research excellence. Years of underinvestment in higher education and a mistaken belief in providing uniform support to all universities irrespective of their output has made sure that neither the academics have adequate support to provide top-quality education to their students nor do they have any incentive to undertake cutting-edge research.

India desperately needs research-oriented globally recognised universities to be able to participate in the modern-day knowledge-based global economy to its full potential.

In his perceptive meditation on the state of higher education in the US, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom concludes that “a crisis in the university, the home of reason, is perhaps the profoundest crisis” for a democratic nation. Though the crisis that he was drawing attention to arose from a different set of issues facing the US academia in the 1960s and 1970s, the present crisis in the Indian universities is equally profound and has the potential to directly affect the future of India.

It has been pointed out that a process of privatisation of higher education system is underway in India, a result not of some comprehensive programme of education reform but as a consequence of the collapse of the public sector and the withdrawal of the middle classes. This is indeed a worrisome trend and it is hoped that the India realises that just by pumping more money into the system or by building more universities it will not be able to remedy the underlying rot in the system.

While the blueprint for establishing “world-class universities” is the necessary first step, it will not solve the problem on its own. The focus on quantity is not the correct approach towards solving the problem of declining quality of Indian higher education system. The policy-makers in India seem to be lacking a clear grasp of what it takes to build institutions that can produce the kind of research and teaching that Indian higher education desperately needs.

Higher education cannot be reduced to mere economic instrumentality with its sole focus on equipping students with the practical skills needed by employers. Nor should the purpose of our higher education be simply to produce engineers and scientists able to compete with the Chinese.

Reduction of learning to job skills rather than an inquiry into the larger issues of life can be disastrous in the long run. India will have to nurture learning for its own sake and to foster other less quantifiable and profitable but still valuable features of higher education.

If the main goals of higher education are teaching students to think critically, broaden their intellectual horizons and promote self-awareness, then the Indian higher education system should be considered a comprehensive failure.

Notwithstanding all the hype over the latest UGC blueprint, it is not clear if the government is interested in an overarching overhaul that can stem the rot in the nation’s higher education system.

The writer teaches at King’s College, London

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J and K needs an RTI law
by Muzaffar Bhat

Transparency International’s annual survey has ranked Jammu & Kashmir as the most corrupt state in India.  To residents of the state, this dubious honor is unsurprising. Jammu and Kashmir has had a long history of official corruption and mismanagement that has brought misery to citizens and has discouraged investment and economic growth, resulting in unemployment and poverty while the rest of India continues to grow and shine. 

Omar Abdullah, the new Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, came to power recently through elections marked by a substantial turnout. The National Conference’s election platform emphasised human rights and transparency reforms, including specific items such as e-governance, the computerisation of land records, and a strong Right to Information regime for the state.

Mr Abdullah’s Right to Information pledge is significant in view of the troubled history of the RTI in Jammu and Kashmir. The J&K RTI Act was first passed in 2004 in the context of a state-level RTI movement where several states from Maharashtra to Delhi to Goa enacted RTI laws of diverse character and strength.

The state’s RTI Act (2004) was nothing more than a toothless and sloppy carbon copy of the erstwhile Central Freedom of Information Act (2002), which was never implemented by the Central Government. From 2004 to date, the J&K RTI Act was also never implemented, frustrating many state residents. Some activists, including this writer, even organised sting operations where the state government officials were recorded refusing or ignoring RTI applications and making a round mockery of the legislation.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the United Progressive Alliance’s Common Minimum Programme of 2004 spelled out the need for “a government that is corruption-free, transparent and accountable at all times, to provide an administration that is responsible and responsive at all times.” The UPA fulfilled this promise by passing the Central Right to Information Act in May 2005. It has since been implemented across the country, and has improved the transparency, accountability, and performance of the government at all levels.

However, the Central RTI Act (2005) could not be extended to Jammu and Kashmir in view of the state’s special constitutional status under Article 370. In response to years of campaigning by citizen’s groups, the state government under Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chief ministership suddenly introduced a poorly drafted RTI Amendment Bill in the Assembly in September 2007.

There were no public consultations preceding the Bill’s introduction, and the government failed to make corrections when lacunae and flaws were eventually highlighted. Against the objections of (a) the National Conference and other Opposition parties, (b) the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, (c) the media, and (d) citizens’ groups, the Bill was nonetheless passed in November 2007 and gazetted in January 2008.

For lack of proper debate, the amended J&K RTI regime remained substantially weaker than the Central RTI Act 2005. Like its predecessor, the J&K RTI Amendment Act 2008 was also never operationalised. Luckily, the new government is formulating a new RTI Act.  

Mr Abdullah deserves the appreciation and thanks of the people of the state for moving to finally correct this long-standing wrong. However, this process remains opaque so far, and there has been no indication whether there will be public consultations before the Bill is tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

Unless public consultations are held, the public will have no input on their own Right to Information regime. There will be no opportunity to identify lacunae and weaknesses in the Bill, and to discuss all-important matters like the constitution of a strong, independent State Information Commission to oversee the RTI regime in the state.

What is critical to remember is that the RTI legislation is for the common man and therefore the public’s view and input should be mandatory. If the public’s input was routinely solicited on other reform initiatives, Jammu and Kashmir could be transformed from a mere electoral democracy into participatory democracy as is the norm in the world’s mature democracies. 

We have a fine example in US President Barack Obama’s first few days in the White House. Like Mr Abdullah, he has made repeated pledges to reform his government and to institutionalise “transparency” and citizen’s “participation.”

He has already fulfilled these pledges with some innovative steps, including a new policy that all forthcoming federal legislations shall be available on the White House website at least five days before going to the Congress. President Obama’s new website also includes a mechanism for citizens to comment on these proposed laws.

Another Obama initiative is a “Citizen’s Briefing Book,” a website-based mechanism for citizens to propose ideas of their own to the President. Finally, Obama has appointed reform-minded experts to top leadership posts in various departments like Justice and Education who are expected to introduce their own transparency and participation reforms.

Mr Omar Abdullah’s and his government’s good intentions are not in doubt, but their failure thus far to usher in a new chapter of transparency, openness, and public consultation has disappointed the civil society in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Abdullah and his government would do well to emulate the approach of the Obama administration by bringing transparency and participation into government, starting with public consultations on the forthcoming Right to Information Bill.

The writer is Convener, J&K RTI Movement, Commonwealth
Human Rights Initiative


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Funds for parties
Political reform is a long-drawn process
by Jagdeep S. Chhokar

There has been a lot of talk of political reform after the tragic events of November 25-28, 2008, in Mumbai. However what most of us do not seem to realise and appreciate is that political reform is not a knee-jerk reaction but a long-drawn process. One such attempt met with a setback on November 14, 2008, and has not got the notice it deserved.

The attempt began on February 28, 2007, when an application under the Right to Information (RTI )Act, 2005, was filed on behalf of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking copies of income tax (IT) returns of 21 political parties.

On denial of the request, ADR filed what are called the ‘first appeals’ under the RTI Act, to the appellate authorities which are all within the IT department.

When the first appeals were dismissed, ADR filed the second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC) on July 31, 2007. After two hearings, the first on October 17, 2007, and the second on January 17, 2008, the CIC decided on April 29, 2008, that copies of IT returns of political parties should be provided to ADR.

On scrutiny of the copies of IT returns after receipt, it was discovered that all parties had claimed exemption from income tax under Section 13 A of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Section 13A of the Income Tax Act 1961, as amended in 2003, reads as follows:

“13A. Special provision relating to incomes of political parties.

Any income of a political party which is chargeable under the head ‘Income from house property’ or ‘Income from other sources’ or any income by way of voluntary contributions received by a political party from any person shall not be included in the total income of the previous year of such political party:

Provided that-

(a) such political party keeps and maintains such books of account and other documents as would enable the Assessing Officer to properly deduce its income therefrom;

(b) in respect of each such voluntary contribution in excess of ten thousand rupees, such political party keeps and maintains a record of such contribution and the name and address of the person who has made such contribution; and

(c) the accounts of such political party are audited by an accountant as defined in the Explanation below sub-section (2) of section 288.

Provided further that if the treasurer of such political party or any other person authorised by that political party in this behalf fails to submit a report under sub-section (3) of section 29C of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) for a financial year, no exemption under this section shall be available for that political party for such financial year.”

Section 29C of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951, to which Section 13A of the IT Act above refers, was inserted by Parliament in 2003. It reads as follows:

ADR then sought information from the Election Commission, again under the RTI, about which political parties had filed the ‘statements of donations’ as required under Section 29-C of the RP Act, and discovered that none of the political parties except four had filed the ‘statements of donations’.

Based on the above, ADR filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting that directions be issued to the IT department, asking them to “to take appropriate action against the defaulting political parties to recover the income tax due from them from the date of default till date”.

As would be clear from the above, the petition was based on the following:

Section 13 A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, allows exemption from income tax for political parties provided they file a ‘statement of donations’ received of more than Rs 20,000 each to the Election Commission of India under Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

While all parties had claimed and had been allowed exemption from income tax, several of them had not filed the ‘statement of donations’ which is a precondition for receiving exemption from income tax.

It was for allowing such exemptions that the petitioner had requested that the IT department be asked to recover the pending arrears of income tax, and also explain how and why the exemptions from income tax were allowed when they were not legally allowable.

The case seemed a clear one as a joint reading of the two sections clearly shows that a political party which has not filed the ‘statement of donations received’ to the Election Commission under Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, is not entitled to exemptions from income tax under Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

And the petition in question provided incontrovertible proof of this based on official documents received from the Election Commission and the Income Tax department under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Supreme Court seems to have dismissed the petition under the mistaken notion that the petition was seeking direction to political parties to file income tax returns. The court also observed during the proceedings that such petitions are filed at times such as this when elections are on.

The fact is that attempts to get information about the income tax returns of political parties were initiated over a year and a half ago. These efforts were opposed tooth and nail by all political parties and had to be pursued till the highest level, that of the Central Information Commission before information was made available in April this year.

This was an attempt at bringing a semblance of transparency to the financing of political parties and, by implication, the entire political and electoral processes.

The issues of the impact of big money on elections and financial transparency of political parties have been studied by the Law Commission of India, and have often come up for the consideration of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, as far back as 1975, in the case Kanwarlal Gupta v. Amar Nath Chawla (3 SCC 646) stressed the pernicious influence of big money in derailing the democratic process, saying it was necessary to “...suppress the mischief and advance the remedy by purifying our election process and ridding it of the pernicious and baneful influence of big money...”

The Law Commission of India, in its 170th report on electoral reforms, submitted to the Government of India in May, 1999, has categorically stated, in para 3.1.2.1, that “It is...necessary to introduce internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in the working of the political parties.”

Despite clear pronouncements from the highest bodies, there seems to be almost no movement in the direction of financial transparency by the political establishment. This is what prompted this effort by the civil society which seems to have run foul of the court. One wonders how to take it forward.

Governance of the country cannot improve unless systemic reforms are carried out in the political system. The political establishment is not going to do these it is used to the existing system.

The writer is a retired professor of the Indian Institute of
Management, Ahmedabad.


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On Record
‘BJP to widen its network’
by Syed Ali Ahmed

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has devised a fresh strategy to go to the grassroots to secure a victory this time in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and undo the damage to its morale and mood caused by the defeat in the recent Delhi assembly elections. The president of the Delhi BJP, O.P. Kohli a veteran RSS activist, does not think undoing the damage to the BJP’s image and morale in the assembly elections is such an uphill task , provided the parliamentary elections were contested with a sound and effective strategy.

Hailing originally from Gurdaspur, Punjab, he is now more or less a Delhiite, having spent decades here. Since his student days he has been interested and active in politics. Thrice he was the president of the all India ABVP and twice the president of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA). He has represented the highest bodies of the Delhi University — the Academic Council and the Executive Council.

Kohli graduated to Delhi politics in 1991 and was appointed president of the Delhi BJP. In 1994 he became a Rajya Sabha MP. He has also worked as in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Rajasthan. At the national level he has chaired the central disciplinary committee of the party. At present he looks after the BJP parliamentary office along with heading the Delhi BJP. He spoke to The Tribune about the party’s election strategy in Delhi and other local issues:

Q. The BJP had lost the assembly elections in Delhi. What strategy is being chalked out to win the parliamentary elections?

Yes, the BJP has lost the assembly elections in Delhi but not by a large margin. The total number of votes the BJP secured were only 1.75 lakh votes less than the Congress in all 70 constituencies. We are making efforts to win all the seven parliamentary constituencies in the national Capital.

This needs strengthening the party at the grassroots level. If we widen our network among the voters in each polling booth area, no voter will slip out. This is the first step to be taken and this may drastically change the results.

To achieve this target, we have constituted an executive committee in which young and dynamic party workers have been taken. The youth are being assigned responsibility and activated to convince their age group that voting the BJP is the only way to ensure a good government at the Centre. I hope this strategy will deliver good results.

The BJP has also constituted the election management committee that will manage all the election work, leaving no stone unturned to win the next elections in Delhi.

Q. It is said that upper-caste voters support the BJP. In the trans-Yamuna area and in slums weaker sections of society are in majority. How will you persuade the poor and marginalised slum dwellers and such others?

That is not true. The recent Delhi results have clearly proved that along with the upper caste, weaker sections have also supported the party. In Kirari, Ghonda and Babarpur majority of the voters belong to weaker sections yet the BJP won.

Q. Ticket distribution was the major issue during the assembly election in Delhi. How will you select candidates for the parliamentary elections?

We have already prepared a list of ticket seekers from various constituencies in Delhi. Certain basic criteria have to be the benchmark while making the final selection of candidates like the nature of constituency, the personal following of the applicant, type of voters etc. When a candidate is found fit from all angles, he is awarded the ticket.

At present there are no differences in the BJP on ticket distribution. And sometimes such differences merely highlight the popularity of the party and is, therefore, a healthy sign.

Q. Being an RSS activist, can you comment on the violence in Mangalore?

The Mangalore case is being investigated. It is too early to comment on the issue.

Q. Recently the Delhi government allowed private unaided schools to hike fees in pursuance of the sixth pay commission report. How do you look at this?

Education is a part of the social sector. The government should help to promote it. Private unaided schools sought the government’s permission to hike tuition fee to increase salaries of their staff according to the scales recommended by the sixth pay commission.

I am in favour of increasing salaries of the school teachers and other staff members. But instead of passing on this burden to the parents, the government should have taken this responsibility on its shoulders by increasing the schools’ subsidy. These days even modestly well-off people send their children to private or public schools.

This decision of the government will adversely affect many people who cannot afford to pay higher fee. Along with the tuition fee, the school management will hike other fee like development charges, library, computer fee etc. Poor people will not be able to afford all this. Still the government should think of giving subsidy to the private unaided schools.

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Profile
‘Save trees’ his life’s mission
by Harihar Swarup

Some call him “Earth Hero”, while others address him as “ Green Warrior”. Indeed, both the descriptions fit Sunderlal Bahuguna, aptly chosen for decoration with Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest award. Eightytwo-year-old Bahuguna spent his whole life working for the people and the environment, specially in the Himalayas region. He lives on the bank of holy Bhagirathi and the motto of his life remains protection of trees, wetlands, rivers, birds and animals.

Bahuguna is no ordinary person. He hit international headlines in the 1970s and 1980s and environmentalists the world over drew inspiration from his “save-the-Himalaya” campaign, which came to be known as the “Chipko” (embrace) movement. As forests were being increasingly felled for commerce and industry, villagers sought to be protect their livelihood through the Gandhian method of “satyagraha”.

The first “chipko” action took place in 1973 and in the next five years spread over to many districts of the Himalayan region of Uttar Pradesh. To save the trees from the axe of contractors, the villagers, many of them women, would embrace the plants and challenge the axe-wielding tough men to chop them first.

The crusade spread like a fire in the hills of UP, which has now been carved out as the state of Uttarakhand. Led by Bahuguna, the first victory came in 1980 when a 15-year ban on felling of green trees was imposed following the intervention of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

During the years of the campaign Bahuguna undertook 5,000-km-long trans-Himalayan march. His contention was — the Himalayan glaciers were receding at an alarming rate and if denudation of the forest was not stopped, the glacier feeding the Ganga would disappear in the course of time.

Bahuguna is now greatly concerned at the degradation of flora and fauna in the developmental process. He wants that the word “development” should be redefined to save natural resources because “we cannot afford to ruin our natural resources in the name of development”.

His fear is that if flora and fauna was destroyed at the present rate the “Gangotri”, the source of the holy Ganga, would be extinct by 2025. Committed to devote his life to serve the people and save the environment, Bahuguna struggled for a decade against construction of the Tehri dam, undertaking long fasts on the banks of the Bhagirathi, demanding a full and independent review of the project.

In 1995 he called off a 45- day-long fast following an assurance from the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao that the work on the dam would stop and the government would appoint an independent committee to review the social, environmental and economic aspects of the project.

The promise was not kept and Bahuguna remained firm on his resolve and undertook another fast, which lasted 74 days. Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister at that time. He gave a personal undertaking that the government would conduct a thorough review of the dam on Bahuguna’s terms.

Started in 1972, the Tehri dam began to fill in 2004. Bahuguna and his wife, Vimla, were forcibly moved to a government allotted house upstream. He has vowed that this is not the end; he will continue to fight for ecological protection.

Few know that Bahuguna would have remained unknown but for a challenge thrown to him by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1960. The Acharya summoned him to Wardha during one of his “padayatras” and told him, “You are resting in your village. There is a great danger to India from China. Take Mahatma Gandhi’s message of “gram swarajya” to remote border villages of the Himlayas”. Jayaprakash Narayan, then a Sarvodaya leader, also gave same advice to young Bahuguna. “Since then I have been working as the sentry of the Himalayas”, he says.

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